The New South Wales government has recently launched a new campaign aimed at increasing the communities understanding of wills, powers of attorney and appointment of enduring guardians.

The campaign is monogrammed as:

Get it in Black & White
Planning Ahead Tools for future legal, health and financial decisions

According to the Attorney General, “Only five per cent of adults clearly understand the three essential documents – wills, powers of attorney and enduring guardianship – that are available to plan ahead in case they can no longer manage their financial affairs or make decisions about their health and lifestyle.”

“The new NSW Government advertising campaign is designed to get people to become informed, take control and plan ahead for themselves and their ageing parents,” he said.

According to research undertaken by government, Australians are generally not prepared for something to happen to themselves or their families.

In a study conducted by Lonergran research among just over 1,000 Australians, a majority (85 per cent) of adults with ageing parents expect to be involved in some aspect of decision making for their parents, however 71 per cent have not discussed with their parents how their finances would be managed, 64 per cent have not spoken about what medical or health treatment they would (or would not) want; and 58 per cent have not spoken about how their parents wish their estate to be distributed after they die!

The research also highlighted that only 5% had a precise understanding of all three the roles of wills, powers of attorney and enduring guardians. Stunningly, 43% didn’t have a Will, 78% had no power of attorney and 91% had not appointed an enduring guardian.

In a country where the ageing population is a more pressing issue, these statistics need to change. To do so the government and practitioners need to help the community overcome the common misplaced obstacles. Generally people either believe they do not need a Will because they either have nothing really to leave, or everything will just go to their family, or it’s all too complicated, or even worse still, that nothing is going to happen to them!!

Combined with the long term benefit of Australia’s compulsory superannuation system, as the years go on many elderly Australians will have substantial retirement assets built up. At the same time many more will suffer some form of medical malady meaning they are unable to manage their financial and medical affairs. The lack of paperwork to deal with these situations will mean hardship to most and a burden on government resources to either adjudicate on disputes or manage the affairs themselves.

The new campaign has it’s own website – well worth a look.

PUBLICATION: ENVOY – The newsletter of The New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives
DATE: March 2014
AUTHOR: Andrew Johnstone, APEARS, Sydney, Australia

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